Five young men have been acquitted of charges of having raped a 16-year-old girl, based on witness testimony and video of the event. The mother of the girl in question has released a statement. Readers should be advised this story contains details that some may find disturbing.
Reykjavík District Court delivered a verdict yesterday in the case of five young men, aged 17 to 19 at the time, who stood accused of having gang raped a 16-year-old girl in the Breiðholt neighbourhood of east Reykjavík last May.
All five were acquitted of sexual assault charges, although one was sentenced to 30 days probationary prison and a 500,000 ISK fine for recording the event.
The prosecution argued that the accused had overpowered the girl at a party, keeping her confined and in a state of fear as they took turns assaulting her and forcing her to perform sex acts, with those already taking part in the assault inviting others to join in. One of them was also accused of having recorded the assault on his phone, and then showing the video to classmates. The girl in question was reportedly traumatised by the event, and filed rape charges against them.
This video was part of the evidence presented at the trial. After observing the video, and listening to testimony of the accused, the girl, and other witnesses, the court considered the testimony of the girl to be unreliable. Friends of the girl reportedly testified that she had describe the night in question much differently before the video came to light. In addition, the accused had their names leaked to social media while the case was still pending, resulting in them being threatened and harassed. Two fled the country over the matter, one dropped out of school, and two lost their jobs.
However, sources close to RÚV report that the friends of the girl, in their initial statements to police, backed up the girl’s testimony that a rape had taken place. This discrepancy is not mentioned in the court ruling.
Sveinn Andri Sveinsson, the lawyer for one of the accused, told DV that he assumed the accused would file charges of false accusation against the girl. However, the lawyers for the other accused men told Vísir this idea is not in the works.
In the wake of the verdict, rape crisis prevention centre Stígamót issued a statement, saying that it is difficult to recommend that rape survivors file charges.
“There is little hope that people will receive justice, but rather a danger that they will be called criminals themselves,” they said. “They can expect to be charged with false accusations and have to prove what the police cannot – that a rape happened. It is unacceptable to put people in that position.”
A statement from the mother of the girl was printed on Vísir, wherein she expressed her sorrow and anger over the verdict, and offered her own thoughts on the matter:
“There were five perpetrators and one survivor,” she wrote in part. “They were acquitted today in Reykjavík District Court, and it is natural to ask whether it matters that all of the defending attorneys and two of the three judges were men.
“Everyone is free to take part in group sex, if everyone consents to it and it is agreed upon with the consciousness, willingness and consent of everyone involved. To believe that a person who is present incidentally is available to participate in such a game without agreeing to it from the start, or planning such a game without the knowledge of the person involved, is far from appropriate and is not sex but rape.
“If there is anyone in this country who doubts whether a crime was committed, then it must be said that no young girl under the influence of alcohol has sex with five strangers at the same time of her own free will. That is not sex; it is violence. This should be perfectly clear to everyone. It is violence of the worst sort, and it is time to let everyone in this country know that young girls are not things that you can do whatever you want with, just because they do not dare say no or fight back. This has to stop. If you are Number Five in line, then you better believe it’s rape.”